KEALAKEKUA — In front of a packed house, Konawaena defeated Kealakehe in straight sets, 25-22, 25-23 and 25-15, in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation crosstown rivalry matchup Tuesday night at Ellison Onizuka Gymnasium.
The defending Division II state champion Wildcats (3-0) stay undefeated in the young BIIF season, while Kealakehe falls to 2-2 in league play.
Coach Ainsley Keawekane said his usually highly efficient Konawaena squad was not operating at its full capacity, but revved up late to record the victory.
“It’s just another step for us,” Keawekane said. “Kealakehe showed up to play tonight and tested us, but we pulled through.”
In the regular season, many of the players on both squads combine to play on the Hoopa Hawaii Volleyball Club, coached by Keawekane.
“It makes it a little more interesting,” Keawekane said. “Those girls on the other side know I expect them to show up. Kyra Calbero did a fantastic job getting the sets to their main hitters, and those main hitters did a great job on converting on the opportunities.”
The teams stayed close in the first set. Konawaena held a 20-17 lead in the latter stages of the set but gave Kealakehe life with a series of unforced errors. The Wildcats regained their composure, and Chanelle Molina delivered her sixth kill of the set to give Konawaena the stanza. Molina finished the match with 14 kills.
In the second set, Molina kept the Wildcats steady, aided by contributions from McKenna Ventura and Mercedes “Ihi” Victor. Konawaena held the lead as the second set began to wind down, but Nika Paogofie-Buyten and Calbero’s strong play helped Kealakehe tie it up at 22-all. Again, the Wildcats surged late to seal the set.
“I think early on the girls had a confidence problem,” Keawekane said. “But as the speed started to pick up as the game went on, so did our game.
Konawaena raced out to an early lead in the third set and never let Kealakehe seize momentum.
Despite the loss, Kealakehe head coach Duke Hartfield was optimistic about his team’s effort.
“That’s a great team over there,” Hartfield said. “Our girls played great and I cannot complain about their effort. They were a little better defensively than us tonight.”